"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Whey-ing In

 This post feels a little backward to me, because ideally, it should follow another one.  However, that supposedly preceding post is not yet ready to be shared, and I am just a wee bit stoked on what went down around here for dinner last night.  Who needs chronological order anyway?

To backtrack, seeing as how we're bending the whole time-continuum thing right now, I learned how to make homemade mozzarella last weekend.  (!)  But, I'm feeling like another go, or even two, would be smart, before I post the how-to.  Never you fear, though, I will indeed be making mozzarella again soon, and often, so the recipe will appear in the not so distant future.

The interesting thing with making mozzarella is that you're left with a rather huge amount of whey afterward.  I asked my culinary guru friend, M, what we should do with the stuff, as it shamed a shame to throw it out.  She sent me a link from The Prairie Homestead, with sixteen ways to use it up.  (Sixteen!)  Some are downright wild (hair rinse?), and some are freaking awesome...

Like making ricotta.  

And using it in bread.  

Waste not, want not, right?

So, that's what I got up to yesterday, and it was pretty fun.  And pretty tasty.  I will say that it's a bit of effort, but to me, the end result made it completely worthwhile.  Besides, how often can you say that you've not only made your own cheese, but that you've used the "waste" to make even more cheese, and bread?  On top of all that goodness, it turns out, whey is really good for you, packed full of enzymes and protein and all sorts of lovelies.  You can even water it down and fertilize your garden with it, by the way.  It's like magic, this stuff.

Here's the lowdown on the bread, and it's easy-peasy.  I substituted the whey left over from making the ricotta (recipe follows), for the water in Pain Ordinaire.  So, this whey had technically been through cheese making not once, with the mozzarella, but twice.  Since the ricotta is made from the leftover albumin protein in whey, my understanding is that this second-time-around whey would be kind of drained of protein.  (Don't quote me on this.)  I'm guessing then, that substituting the initial (mozzarella batch) whey, would result in a higher protein bread, and I'm definitely going to try that next time.  This though, worked perfectly in the loaves.  The dough was a dream to work with, light and pillowy, and the end result was an incredibly soft textured crumb, but still with the lovely crisp crust.  If you're just crazy enough to have some whey around your kitchen, you should definitely throw it into your next batch of bread.  I'm telling you.

That brings us to the ricotta.  I've made it once before, but it was somewhat eh.  Not bad, just nothing to get worked up about.  As I learned in this recipe from Fias Co Farm, ricotta is traditionally made with leftover whey, not milk, as I'd done in the past.  Hence, it's name:  ricotta.  Twice cooked.  I had about half a gallon of whey, which only made about a third of a cup of ricotta.  So, fair warning.  It is, in my humble opinion, about quality here though, not quantity.  The cheese was gorgeously creamy, and held its own perfectly spread on bread, with a bit of sel gris sprinkled over it.

My initial instinct was to pair the ricotta with a beautiful caramelized onion jam that M brought me, and top it with baby arugula.  It was delicious, and pretty, but the jam rather overpowered the ricotta, so I went with just a bit of ricotta and salt after that.

Ricotta - adapted from Fias Co Farm

*Note*  You don't need exact amounts here, just use whatever you've got, but know that my half gallon only made about 1/3 cup.

Whey, leftover from making mozzarella (using rennet, rather than an acid)

Two large pots, appropriately sized for the amount of whey you're using
 - one for cooking the whey in
 - one to set the sieve over, to drain the ricotta
a large, fine-mesh sieve
a thermometer that reads at least up to 200 deg F (I just used my meat thermometer)
very fine cheesecloth, called butter muslin, or a light tea towel (I used the towel) to line the sieve

Set up one of the pots in the sink, with the sieve over it, and cloth lining the sieve, for draining.

Over medium low heat, bring your way slowly up to 200 deg F, checking the temperature fairly regularly, stirring from time to time.  If you're whey begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, don't scrape it up, just leave it, and gently stir the liquid.  It took about half an hour (give or take) for me to get to 200 deg, but your time will depend on how much whey you're using.  At about 180 deg, I noticed the whey thickening very slightly, and by the time it reached 200 deg, there were lovely, cloud-like clumps floating at the top.  (The ricotta)  At this point, carefully pour the hot liquid into the cloth-lined sieve, and let the majority of it drain through.  Then, tie up the four corners of the cloth, and leave it to drain thoroughly for a couple of hours.  Scrape the ricotta into a dish, and salt to taste.  You are now the possessor of one gorgeous bit of cheese, which will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

5/17/12:  Correction:  I originally posted here that I read that whey will keep, refrigerated for six months...not true!  I just pulled out some whey to make another round of ricotta, which was only a week and a half old, and it was absolutely rank.  Not sure what the story is there, but I guess my best advice is to use that mozzarella whey up within a couple of days, to make your ricotta.  Or fertilize the garden with it!


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